Category Archives: Mindfulness

When I Get Bigger + Bigger


Nora starts a lot of her sentences now with, “When I get bigger and bigger”. She says things like:

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna put on my own shoes…and my coat and my mittens…and Ima gonna take my umbrella…and go outside and STOMP all the puddles. By MY-SELF.

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna walk all the way to the MU-seum.

When I get bigger and bigger…Ima gonna eat my LUNCH at work.

But last night, in the bath, she said:

When I get bigger and bigger, Ima gonna pick out my pajamas… And my DIAPER…and Ima gonna turn on the bath water and… Ima gonna get in the bathtub…by MY-SELF.

And I said to her, “But Nora, you did most of those things tonight. You got out your pajamas by yourself, you turned on the bath and I helped you into the water. When you were smaller, I had to do all of those things for you and now you’re getting bigger and bigger and you helped me.”

She just said “Yeah,” and went back to smearing bubbles all over her face.

I have found that when I am in the middle of parenting my toddler, I have forgotten how far we’ve come. At almost 2-1/2, Nora can’t do a lot, but she can do more and more each day. Each day, she is sliding down the stairs a bit faster, climbing on furniture with a bit more facility, and voicing her opinions more clearly and adamantly. And each day gets a little easier in some ways and a bit harder in others.

Like her, I want to train my eyes on those days when she gets bigger and bigger. But right now, living with my funny, helpful, smart and adventurous almost 2-1/2 year old girl is really good too.


Small Stones #28-31 & Mindful Writing Challenge Wrap-Up

As part of the January Mindful Writing Challenge, I am writing one small stone each day and posting it on my Tumblr. Every Sunday, I will aggregate them here.

I feel like I ended the challenge with a whimper, not a bang. I limped across the finish line on January 31, my last two small stones posted. There were some good elements of the challenge for me and there were some bad, of course.

The good:

— I wrote 31 small stones in 31 days. I can’t recall in previous years if I made it consistently through, “completing” the challenge. But this year, I did. Which means…

— I consistently committed to my writing for a full month. Now, I wasn’t writing sonnets or anything, but I did write daily for a month. That’s nothing to sneeze at, by any means.

— I strengthened my observational skills. I noticed more, even if I had to hold on to that noticing until the end of the day. I don’t know if I can call it mindful awareness, because I wasn’t noticing and writingin the moment.

The bad:

— I quickly translated writing a small stone as I find them to remembering my small stone at the end of the day. This was expedient, but not in the spirit of the practice. Which means…

— I didn’t get what I wanted out of the practice. I wanted more stillness, more wholeness, more presence in my day. Instead, I got half stones that I had to polish nightly.

— The hardest part of the daily writing challenge, any daily writing challenge, is when you begin to resent the practice. There were many times that I grumbled about having to write my sassafras small stone when I really just wanted to sleep.

— I didn’t engage in the community as much as I would have hoped. I miss that community of writers feel to a challenge undertaken communally, but I just don’t have the time to play on Facebook or blos all day.

On to the stones:

January 28

Outside, freezing rain shatters against the windows. Inside, I listen to my daughter and my husband snore.

January 29

I bisect the orange through its equator, pull it apart to reveal two perfect suns. Over my shoulder, she sings its name to me, over and over.

January 30

Snow clings to the black branches, burdens the tree with its weight.

January 31

The pan is hot enough to make a satisfying sizzle. I push the edges inward, watch the yellow liquid congeal and bubble. Two minutes later, liquid transforms to solid, steaming on the plate.

Small Stones 14-20 (Week Three)

As part of the January Mindful Writing Challenge, I am writing one small stone each day and posting it on my Tumblr. Every Sunday, I will aggregate them here.

This was another busy week and I found myself remembering my small stones at the end of the day, rather than writing in the moment. I have a consistent process now, such as it is. While I nurse Nora down to sleep, I think through my day, combing my memory for an appropriately mindful moment. Then, I begin composing in my head as Nora falls asleep in my arms. Once she’s in her crib, I rush downstairs and transcribe my stone while I unwind. I would prefer to write in the moment, but at least I have a streak of 20 stones in 20 days.

January 14

There was just enough snow to reveal the checkerboard of voids underneath.

January 15

Two Days Before Turning 36

I stoop to lift 21 pounds of squirming, kicking joy and lightning shoots from my spine down to the tips of my toes. Two hours later, I still hold myself gently, as if I may stick or break.

January 16

Her face is tense with concentration as she worries the wooden dowels into the work bench’s holes. From my vantage point, each dowel is a skyscraper; together they make an uneven skyline in brown, blue, and red.

January 17

Jar Candle

I snuff the candle and watch wisps of white smoke pool in the glass mouth. I stopper the jar and the billows swirl and tumble as the wick darkens from orange to black.

January 18

Learning to Walk

Her forehead is a miniature constellation of bruises. The blue circle is where she stumbled on the step. The yellowing half moon is where she careened into the dining room wall. The faint purple line is where she rolled into the door frame. I cringe at all the evidence of her learning.

January 19


I am suddenly exquisitely aware of my muscles, the movement of each marble hard knot as it travels up my shoulder blade and dissolves like sugar.

January 20

Playing with Lentils

She scoops the flat red seeds from Tupperware to aluminum pie tin. They rain off of her hands, some camouflaged in the carpet and some pattering against the tin.

What I Want to Remember Today


Nora inherited a scuffed green table and two chairs (one red, one powder blue) from one of my colleagues. She loves to sit on the chairs, dangle her feet, and slide off.

She learned, just today, to say, “awesome”, with perfect diction.

She loves to do the dishes with me. Today, while I was scrubbing, she repeatedly dunked a two-inch Homer Simpson plastic figurine in the water. Each time, she’d say, “Where go? Where go?” then rescue him from the depths.

After dishes, we are both soaked to our elbows. Almost every time.

She has so much joy contained in her little 30 inch frame. She’s taken to running around the house shouting, “yaaaaaayyyyy!” when she is really excited.

She also has so much frustration. Whenever she gets thwarted – an object taken away, attention redirected – rage makes her shake and she starts to cry or stomp or fling or bite or kick.

Everything passes quickly. Her little rages die quickly, either through hugs or re-redirecting attention to something new. I averted a full-on tantrum tonight just by sitting on the floor and reading one of her favorite books. She sat down with me, calmly, to read.

She loves laps. She says “lap, lap,” backs up and tries to sit on our laps when we’re on the floor with her. Sometimes she misses by a few inches.

I’m exhausted after she goes to bed. Like yawning, tearing up, dragging down the stairs tired.

When she’s older, I want to remember all these little moments, these every day times when we wash dishes, and read books, and color at lime green baby tables. I want to carry it all – the rage, joy, and exhaustion -with me.

Small Stones #1-6 (Week One)

As part of the January Mindful Writing Challenge, I am writing one small stone each day and posting it on my Tumblr. Every Sunday, I will aggregate them here.

As I ease into the practice this week, I remember how easy it is to pay attention to the small things, especially when it seems like my life is an accumulation of small things. The trick this week for me has been to find time to write down what I notice. With a toddler, this is challenging, to say the least. I’ve been using my little notebook as well as my phone and tablet as storehouses. The quality has been varied, but I have appreciated the dip back into poetic imagination.

Here are this week’s small stones:

January 1

Dishes, Together

She stretches her small hand, swallowed
in suds. With one short huff,
I blow white foam everywhere.
A cluster clings to her ragged bangs
and she asks for more.

January 2

13 Degrees

On my right, a brown squirrel darts
across the crust of packed snow,
takes cover under a tree.

On my left, a motionless brown form,
an arc of a tail frozen in the air.
As I near, I see

a clump of dead leaves,
a lone branch curved out of the mass.

My breath pools in vapor trails before me.

January 3

Kitchen Scraps

At the bottom of the sink –
a soggy knot of carrot peels,
the knobby heart of the green pepper,
two blue bottle nipples, and
the copper ring for a Ball pint jar –
evidence of the day I missed.

January 4


I don’t know what is more beautiful: the butter-soft flesh, the ring of dark green surrounding yellow, or the hollow that the pit carved by its absence.

January 5

Holding a Sick Child

Each inhale holds a rattle, each exhale a hiss. Her little frame swells and falls, an even tide. The humidifier echoes every breath, in the blue dark of the room.

January 6

January sunlight through the window transforms condensation into dozens of tiny, glittering gems.

Practice for January

Beginning January 1, I’m participating in the January Mindful Writing Challenge, hosted by Satya and Kaspa at Writing Our Way Home. Inthis challenge, I will write one small stone (or moment of mindful observation) each day. My hope in this challenge is to jump start my writing practice, which has taken such a hit since becoming a mother. Each day, I will post my small stone on my Tumblr. On Mondays, I will post the previous week’s small stones as an aggregate post here. If I’m really on my game, I might take a picture via Instagram to go along with my small stone, which I will post both on Instagram and Tumblr.

In order to get ready for the challenge, I plan on buying a mini-notebook to collect my small stones. I may even have time to decorate the cover, if I’m lucky. I am so ready to dive into the new year, and a new writing practice.

Noticing Light

Living as far north as I do, we can go days without sun, so the solstice and its hope of lighter days to come is always welcome. As a practice in mindfulness on this winter solstice, I opened my eyes to light, in as many ways as I could.


I noticed the light as the sun rose beyond the trees, as I walked to work.


I noticed the light on a snow covered gate, in a garden that will be green and breathing in a few months.


I noticed the light glinting off the snow and ice on a dormant plant.


I noticed the fading light as I walked home, a pink band straining the gray sky.

As I stopped to take these pictures, I reminded myself about the importance of these pauses in my day. It was a promise to myself that I would pay attention, to the light around me and within me.

I notice. I notice. I notice. I notice.

Morning + Afternoon + Evening (December 5)

december 5 morning

Morning (Dishes around 7:00 AM)

december 5 afternoon

Afternoon (My office window, around 3:30 PM)

december 5 evening

Evening (Playing before bath time, around 6:30 PM)

This was my day. At least the pretty parts. The easy to capture parts. The parts where I had the time and the presence of mind to grab my camera.

In between these pictures, I worked ten hours at my job. I spent a lot of time reading (student resumes, research on social capital and job searches, and the never-ending stream of emails). I had staff meetings. I listened to a psychologist present his research on treating domestic violence perpetrators and the importance of loving (but not necessarily liking) the abusers in order to help them. I met with students and talked to them about their goals. I came home and ate dinner. I gave my daughter a bath. I nursed her in a quiet bedroom.

There were parts that I couldn’t capture by camera: the toddler who wouldn’t (couldn’t sit still), her joy at seeing pictures of herself, the way she says her name (no-wah) when she sees the picture. The microscopic “yuckies” that she finds on the floor and in the bathtub and carefully hands me. The blue reflection on the floor in her bedroom when we nursed.

In between these pictures, I was busy. I was tired. I was happy. And now I’m back here again, at the end of my day, making sense of all of its parts.


Pictures taken via Instragram. I’m 9to5poet over there.

420 Nights + Counting

I have a favorite time of night. It happens after dinner. After playing and reading books. After the bath and massage and slipping into pajamas. Sitting in the dark, I nurse Nora to sleep. I listen to the rhythm of her breath, to the gurgling of the humidifier, to my own even breath. I feel her grow heavier. If it’s quiet enough at exactly the right time, I hear the tolling of the nearby Lutheran church’s bells. The same distant melody I fell asleep to as a student, over fifteen years ago.

Because I’m sitting in the dark, waiting for her to fall fully asleep, I have time to think. My own eyelids flutter and fall as I review the day’s events. As I think about the day to come. As I imagine all of our days to come.

There is a kind of timelessness to breastfeeding. This can be any night and every night. I have been doing this, in one form or another, for 420 nights. I can imagine doing this for another 420 nights. Another 4,200. But I know, in reality, that this quiet time I have with our small daughter is brief. I will only be able to do this for a few hundred nights more. She will eventually grow out of her need for this type of sustenance and comfort. She’ll move to cuddles and back rubs, just-one-more stories, and eventually, pecks on the cheek. But for now, I feel like this part of our lives will extend forever.

I’m not grateful for this time every night. There are times when she takes forever to settle down. When she kicks me too hard. When she refuses to lay down in the crib. When I’m just too tired for the routine. I have to honor that this type of parenting, this type of mindfulness, is not always easy.

But most nights, this is the quiet that I wait for all day.